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Betty Ford Case Study

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There are several reasons why and what substances like alcohol is used for. Some use it to commemorate a special occasion or a special moment. Some individuals may use it to relieve themselves when they are feeling weighed down. Individuals tend to use alcohol in different situations. They could drink while alone, around others, or in a social environment. When an individual faces everyday challenges in their daily life it could cause alcohol use to become a problem. A person will tend to become dependent on alcohol when having increasing issues with their emotional and physical health. Betty Ford is a case of substance abuse and alcoholism that became a famous case. Throughout this essay I will discuss Betty Ford and her issues with substance abuse and alcoholism. I will also analyze the biological, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral components of the disorder from substance abuse.
Client Description
Current Description Betty Ford grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan as the youngest of three children and the only daughter to father, William Bloomer, and mother, Hortense Neahr (The National First Ladies’ Library, 2012). Although Betty’s experiences growing up were both positive and pleasant, her mother was a perfectionist who had exceptionally high expectations for her children, and her father was a traveling salesman who very rarely spent time at home. When Betty was 16 years of age her father passed away. Because her father rarely spent time at home, it wasn’t until after his passing that she discovered that he was an alcoholic. Betty also discovered that her older brother Robert was also an alcoholic. Betty’s first taste of alcohol was in her youth when her mother would add bourbon to a cup of hot tea as a means to reduce the effects of an illness (Meyer, Chapman, & Weaver, 2009)..

Predisposing Factors As a young adult, Betty enjoyed socializing with friends at night clubs where she was not only able to dance but to indulge in a few drinks. Her experiences at the night clubs made her realize how much she loved to dance and it lead her to pursue her ultimate dream of dancing. She followed her dream to study dance to a school in New York, however she did not have the success that she was hoping to find. The feeling of disappointment and failure led Betty to increase the amount of alcohol that she was consuming, and eventually led her to go back home to her family in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Betty married twice in her lifetime. Her first marriage ended after five years when it was discovered that socializing at night clubs was destroying their marriage. After her first divorce, she met and married Gerald (Jerry) Ford, who was an active, powerful, and dominating force in the political arena. During their marriage, Betty and Jerry also raised four children with whom the couple had a very loving relationship with. Although the marriage between the two was also strong and loving, Jerry continued to put his political career ahead of everything, including his own family, which often made Betty feel lonely and isolated. After Jerry was elected as President, Betty began to feel a sense of renewed hope. She had the ability to become involved in several different causes which made her feel happy and important. Although she enjoyed playing an active role at the White House, she also felt extremely pressured. She began experiencing a variety of physical and psychological health problems which also affected how she felt. Some of these health problems included reoccurring pain in her neck from a previously pinched nerve, emotional fatigue, and the diagnoses of breast cancer (of which she became a strong advocate). To ease the pain she was feeling, Betty would be prescribed a variety of medications of which she eventually grew a tolerance to. In addition to the medications, Betty would increase the amount of alcohol she was drinking in an attempt to comfort her pain. After their departure from the White House, Betty and Jerry moved to California where Betty began to feel more and more isolated and alone. At this point, Betty’s children were all grown up and living on their own and Jerry kept himself busy by continuing his engagements in political activities. Betty became more dependent on prescription medications and alcohol to relieve her pain and depression and also less involved in the social arena. After realizing the full extent of her illness and addictions, her family intervened, and eventually they were able to convince Betty to seek treatment.
Components of the Disorder Betty Ford’s case is full of biological, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral components that link her experiences to alcoholism. According to Nevid, Rathus, and Greene (2006), “alcoholism tends to run in families. The closer the genetic relationship, the greater the risk” (p. 310). Members in Betty’s immediate family which included her father and her brother were both alcoholics. Additionally, Betty used alcohol and prescription medications over the course of her lifetime which eventually led towards a chronic problem in substance abuse and tolerance. Although using substances can create a sense of pleasure for the individual, Betty’s continual use of substances affected her brain circuits, such as the dopamine neurotransmitters which normally produce feelings of pleasure. After years of continual use, the dopamine neurotransmitters could no longer produce the feelings of pleasure that Betty once felt when drinking alcohol, therefore she would continue to consume larger amounts of alcohol to relieve the anxiety that she felt when confronted by stressful circumstances. The use of alcohol and other substances to relieve anxiety and feelings of sadness were therefore both biological and behavioral, as drinking would often serve as positive reinforcement. Betty also began to rely on prescription medications and alcohol as a means for helping her to get motivated to get up in the morning as well as to help her fall asleep at night. She also felt relief from the pills and alcohol when she felt tense from the pressures of constantly being in the public eye while living at the White House. According to Hansell and Damour (2009), “the expectancies of feeling good, relaxed, or less distressed can be an important motive for drug use and a self-fulfilling prophecy,” therefore also being a very important role in the cognitive approach. Finally, throughout Betty’s life there were numerous examples of how her emotions played a role in her addictions. Betty’s feelings of loneliness and neglect began at a young age when her father rarely spent time with her or her family, and these feelings carried through her adult life when her husband Jerry was more focused on his career than on her. In addition, Betty felt great disappointment when she could not make a successful career in dance. She began to regret that she did not pursue higher education and she often felt like a failure because she did not feel successful. She compared herself to others who she looked up to and felt that others could not appreciate her in the same light. Her lack of self esteem led her to hiding her true self from others in order to feel loved and appreciated, and led her to consume more alcohol to hide her guilt.
Conclusion
Substance dependence is a serious illness in which an individual is in a constant state of distress. Indications of alcohol or substance dependence include an increasingly large amount of the substance in order to feel good or function properly, increased time spent in activities necessary to keep using the substance, continued use despite the effects that the substance is having on physical or emotional well-being, and the steady withdrawal from social activities. The case study of Betty Ford illustrates how she became dependent on alcohol and other substances through a variety of factors such as family history, positive reinforcement, and anxiety and lonelines

References (on a new page)

Hansell, J., & Damour, L. (2008). Abnormal psychology (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Meyer, R., Chapman, L. K. and Weaver, C. M. (2009). Case studies in abnormal behavior. (8th ed.). Boston: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon.
National First Ladies’ Library. (2012). First Lady Biography: Betty Ford. Retrieved on December 24, 2012 from http://www.firstladies.org/biographies/firstladies.aspx?biography=39.
Nevid, J., Rathus, S., & Greene, B. (2006). Abnormal Psychology in a Changing World. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

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